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It’s National Co-op Month! America’s Farm Co-ops Set Records in 2011

Cooperatives' gross and net business volumes, from 1979-2011.

Cooperatives' gross and net business volumes, from 1979-2011. Click image to enlarge.

Since 1930, America has observed National Co-op month in October and what better way to celebrate the strength and vigor of cooperatives in the United States than to read a new USDA report, which notes that farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives posted record sales and income in 2011, surpassing the previous record sales year of 2008 by $10 billion.   Not only that, cooperatives bested the old income record by $500 million. Net income before taxes for all agricultural co-ops was a record $5.4 billion, eclipsing the previous high set in 2008. Net income was up more than 25 percent, or $1 billion, from 2010. Read more »

Updated Food Environment Atlas Provides Rich Data on Local Foods

Number of Farmers Markets per County, 2011 (darkest areas have higher numbers). More than 7,800 farmers markets have sprung up across the United States, up from roughly 1,700 in 1994.

Number of Farmers Markets per County, 2011 (darkest areas have higher numbers). More than 7,800 farmers markets have sprung up across the United States, up from roughly 1,700 in 1994.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Interest in local and regional food systems has expanded in recent years. The evidence is everywhere: from the number of farmers markets more than doubling nationwide since 2004, to the rising popularity of “community supported agriculture” (CSA) participation, to the increasingly common sight of restaurants and retail grocery outlets stocking and promoting meat and produce from local farmers and ranchers. This consumer trend has implications for the farms that supply these markets, firms across the retail supply chain, and policy makers at the federal, state and local levels that often promote local foods in various nutrition, food assistance and community development programs. Read more »

Trade Documents at Your Fingertips: Anytime, Anywhere

Over the last three years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has worked with the peanut and dairy industries to create a government-hosted electronic trade document repository. The eTrade Document Exchange (eTDE) System, funded by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service through the Market Access Program, makes electronic trade documents, including official certificates, available securely through the Internet to facilitate the domestic and international movement of U.S. agricultural products.

This system provides users with the ability to access commodity-related trade documents as PDF files that can be used to verify hard copy documents or to eliminate the use of hard copy documents entirely. It allows authorized product owners, buyers, carriers, brokers, and government port agents access to critical information around the clock and around the world.

USDA collaborates with trade associations to provide this information as an export service to the supply chain. The certificates available in the repository are provided by a variety of document providers. Some certificates are provided by USDA, some by programs under department certification, and some from commercial sources that operate independently. USDA validates the identity of each document provider and has security controls in place to ensure that certificate data obtained from providers remains unaltered once it is posted to the site. Read more »

Forest Service Employee Finds Missing Three-Year Old Boy Near Arkansas Forest

Rescue crews from the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest attend to three-year-old Landen Trammel whom they found Wednesday, Sept., 12 in Stone County, Ark. From left are Jamie Martin, Carol Swboni and Bradley Taylor who spotted the toddler playing in a mud puddle.  Photo credit: Courtesy of Fox16.com

Rescue crews from the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest attend to three-year-old Landen Trammel whom they found Wednesday, Sept., 12 in Stone County, Ark. From left are Jamie Martin, Carol Swboni and Bradley Taylor who spotted the toddler playing in a mud puddle. Photo credit: Courtesy of Fox16.com

It was about 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Onia, a small community in Stone County, Arkansas, within the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. About 24 hours had passed since three-year-old Landen Cade Trammell had wandered away from his home and about 30 Forest Service employees were actively searching for the little boy. Read more »

Specialty Crop Grants Make a Difference for Farmers and Businesses

2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant will help expand existing efforts by the Fallon Small Farm Collaborative for create new market opportunities for Churchill County farmers, like the ones pictured above.  Photo courtesy Fallon Farmers’ Collaborative

2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant will help expand existing efforts by the Fallon Small Farm Collaborative for create new market opportunities for Churchill County farmers, like the ones pictured above. Photo courtesy Fallon Farmers’ Collaborative

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack announced the Specialty Crop Block Grant awards totaling $55 million dollars.  These grants will fund over 748 initiatives across the United States and its territories, and help expand opportunities for local and regional farmers.

Specialty crops produced in the U.S. include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, and are often a key source of income for America’s farmers.  Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service grants money to the state and territory for them to directly support projects creating new business opportunities, boosting efficiency and productivity, and improving food safety.

Read more »

Fuel for Success: My Sports Plate

The new nutrition standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act at the US Department of Agriculture represent an important step in America’s fight against childhood obesity and will help promote healthy eating habits for youth in our nation’s schools. These standards promote a balanced diet of additional fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins, and whole grains, while eating less sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.

Allyson Felix, member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist in track and field, tells us how good nutrition has improved her health and gives her the energy she needs to perform like a champion:

“In the morning before I lace up my running shoes, grab my workout bag and head out the door to the track, I always have my go-to breakfast of oatmeal, fresh fruit and a tall glass of water. It’s an absolute must to fuel my body for the work day I have in front of me. I may have a unique job as a professional track and field athlete; however my day is not unlike most. I’m up early rushing between workouts, meetings, events, and additional training sessions and functions in the afternoon and evening.  Trying to keep pace with the days demands can be challenging, but giving my body the proper nutrition it needs allows me to maintain my energy and perform at a high level. Read more »